Saturday, November 19, 2022

Review: The Butterfly Collector

Title: The Butterfly Collector
Author: Tea Cooper

Publisher: 3rd November 2022 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 400 pages

Genre: historical fiction 

My Rating: 4.5 cups


What connects a botanical illustration of a butterfly with a missing baby and an enigma fifty years in the making? A twisty historical mystery from a bestselling Australian author.

1868 Morpeth Theodora Breckenridge, still in mourning after the loss of her parents and brother at sea, is more interested in working quietly on her art at the family's country estate than she is finding a husband in Sydney society, even if her elder sister Florence has other ideas. Theodora seeks to emulate prestigious nature illustrators, the Scott sisters, who lived nearby, so she cannot believe her luck when she discovers a butterfly never before sighted in Australia. With the help of Clarrie, her maid, and her beautiful illustrations, she is poised to make a natural science discovery that will put her name on the map. Then Clarrie's new-born son goes missing and everything changes.

1922 Sydney When would-be correspondent Verity Binks is sent an anonymous parcel containing a spectacular butterfly costume and an invitation to the Sydney Artists Masquerade Ball on the same day she loses her job at The Arrow, she is both baffled and determined to go. Her late grandfather Sid, an esteemed newspaperman, would expect no less of her. At the ball, she lands a juicy commission to write the history of the Treadwell Foundation - an institution that supports disgraced young women and their babies. But as she begins to dig, her investigation quickly leads her to an increasingly dark and complex mystery, a mystery fifty years in the making. Can she solve it? And will anyone believe her if she does?

My Thoughts

A new Australian historical fiction book by Tea Cooper always gives reason to celebrate as her books guarantee great escapism. I have enjoyed all of Tea’s previous works as they have proven to be consistently engaging and masterfully crafted tales of mystery and intrigue. Much like Theodora’s paintings in the novel, Tea has beautifully captured time and place in this wonderful story. 

‘She was different, she knew she was. She'd always known. Something was out there waiting for her and one day she would grasp it between her fingers and know her search had ended.’

In her latest offering, The Butterfly Collector, Tea writes a dual timeline narrative set in New South Wales 1868 and 1922. I appreciated the close proximity of the timelines with familial links as it enriched the story with aligned connections. Rich in research, Tea details two interesting events from this period in Australia. One is the fascinating story of initial sightings of the Monarch butterfly in Australia; the other, the much darker tale of what became of many babies from unwed mothers of the period. Another theme surrounded women’s independence, especially after WW1 and insights into such things as the advent of the bicycle providing more freedom - something I had never really considered before. 

Congratulations Tea on once again proving your prose is up there with the best. From strong protagonists, to family drama and mystery, to the breathtaking vistas of the bush with the magnificent flight of the butterflies - I highly recommend the tale that is, The Butterfly Collector with its tale of strength and persistence. 

‘… each individual butterfly hovered and danced above the sea of flowers, their first taste of nectar giving them strength for the moment they'd ensure their species survival.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

No comments:

Post a Comment